By Alex Gallacher
A pair of goals by Oliver Tarr helped lead the Haliburton County Huskies to a narrow 3-2 win Saturday, against the visiting Wellington Dukes at the S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena. Another sizable crowd played witness to one of the closest and most physical games of the season. After dropping their first tilt against the Dukes 5-1 in Wellington, the Huskies were hungry for some revenge on home ice.
Despite two straight losses at the hands of the St. Michael’s Buzzers and the Cobourg Cougars, the team was eager to put on another good showing as they did in their commanding 5-0 victory one week ago.
When the opening puck dropped, it was clear that these two teams were very evenly matched. Trading chances back and forth for the better part of the period, the goalies were the ones who stole the show. Huskies goalie Christian Cicigoi was working hard in the first period, with the Dukes coming at him from all angles. Applying pressure and getting countless shots off, Cicigoi stood strong and kept it all out.
Going the other way, Lucas Stevenson was sent in on the breakaway against Dukes netminder Matt Dunsmoor. Despite the two good chances by Stevenson, the Bracebridge, Ontario native looked like a contortionist to keep the game tied at zero.
The opening goal of the contest would come off the stick of Wellington’s Harrison Ballard at 7:30 in the first period. Following a missed shot, Ballard was able to beat Cicigoi to the post and slide one past on the wrap around. Putting the Dukes up 1-0, the Huskies would wait until the eleventh hour to tie up the game.
Defenceman Ryan Hall would fancy a shot from the point, deflecting awkwardly off of Dunsmoor. The shot bounced right onto the stick of Stevenson, who made no mistake. Burying the puck in the back of the net with 12.3 seconds left in the period, the teams headed back to the locker rooms tied up at one a piece.
While the second period recorded no scoring on either end, it didn’t lack any excitement. The referees seemed to take a laissez-faire attitude on the penalty front, with the lack of calls leading to some big hits and very physical play. The period was rough, with the stand out moment being some ferocious hits by the Huskies’ own Sam Solomino and Joe Boice. The teams once again headed back to their locker rooms in a deadlock.
When the puck dropped for the third period, the tension in the air could be cut by a knife. Fortunately, the Huskies started out the period with a bang. Just off three and a half minutes into the third, Tarr did what Tarr does best: score goals. Blasting home a feed from newly acquired forward Christian Stevens for his tenth of the year, putting the Huskies ahead 2-1.
At 15:25, Huskies defenceman Josh Vagenes took a hard hit into the boards. Getting up in extreme discomfort, the Erin, Ontario native left the game due to the injury. Post-game, it was confirmed to be an upper body injury and Vagenes was taken to the local hospital for further evaluation.
As the game drew to a close, the Dukes fought hard for the equalizer. Barrett Joynt would take a shot that went wide of Cicigoi, however an unlucky bounce put that puck in the back of the net. To the ire of the Huskies goalie, the puck seemed to deflect off of both the boards and his own padding leading to a goal he will for sure want back.
Just like that, it was 2-2.
Less than two minutes later, Tarr would call his shot. Getting a beautiful centring pass from Patrick Saini, Tarr let one rip. The shot beat Dunsmoor with lighting speed, putting the Huskies back ahead. While the Dukes put up their dukes, it was all over as the Huskies held on for a heart pounding 3-2 victory.
“I don’t think the score of the last Wellington game we played was the outcome of the game,” said coach Ryan Ramsay. “We worked hard tonight, sometimes over the course of 56 games some bad goals will happen but our goal tending has been overall outstanding this season. These games are exciting though, reminds me of the days when I used to play.”
The new OJHL goal scoring leader, Oliver Tarr not only had the game winning goal but was also named first star. Citing the amazing contributions from his teammates, Tarr expressed that they move in a pack and wins are a sum of all the parts.
“We move as a unit,” Tarr said. “To be able to score at this pace like I do, a lot of it comes from my teammates putting the puck on my stick. Hockey is a roller coaster of emotions, so it feels nice to score a game winning goal. We are playing amazing as a team, and we got to keep this up heading into the showcase.”
The Huskies are now sitting with a record of 4-4-0-0.They are fourth in the East, two points back of the Cobourg Cougars and four points back of the Lindsay Muskies the two closest divisional competitors. The Huskies take to the road as they head to Cobourg for the 2021 OJHL showcase. They played their first showcase game on Oct. 26 against the North York Rangers and the second game against the Toronto Patriots on Oct. 27. The Huskies return to Minden on Oct. 30 for a rematch against the Muskies, with the Battle of Highway 35 standing at one a piece.